AFTER a heart-stopping 102-100 win over three-time PBA Philippine Cup champion Talk ‘N Text, Air21 coach Franz Pumaren has temporarily put on hold his search for a natural point guard.
The Express are playing the conference with only one legitimate point guard in veteran Wynne Arboleda following the injury to Simon Atkins and the trade that sent Mike Cortez to Meralco, prompting Pumaren to convert two-guards Joseph Yeo and Bonbon Custodio into playmakers.
Spin.ph has reported about Air21's move to acquire Josh Urbiztondo from Barangay Ginebra, but all trade talks, Pumaren said, are temporarily "frozen" as the cellar-dwelling Express make one last push for a playoff spot.
“We don’t know when to do it (initiating a trade for a point guard), but we're still looking for somebody. It’s so hard to rock the boat at this stage ... but that’s one of my first priorities,” Pumaren shared to Spin.ph on Thursday before the team’s practice.
Yeo, noted as a slasher since his college days with La Salle and eventually with the defunct Sta. Lucia and later with Petron, averages a career-high 6.3 assists to go along with his 14.7 points and 5.3 rebounds since taking on the job as a playmaker.
The 'Ninja' has averaged 13 assists in two of the team’s last three games, which ended with victories over GlobalPort (109-103 in overtime) as well as Talk ‘N Text.
Pumaren, a point guard during his heydays with San Miguel Beer and later on with Mobiline (now Talk ‘N Text), said he’s happy to see Yeo thrive in his new role as a point guard but plans to put him back to his off guard role down the road once he finds a true point guard.
“If you look at the way he performed yesterday (Wednesday), double-double pa rin siya (Yeo),” explained the Air21 mentor. “I think he’s at the top five or six (in assists per game this conference). He’s doing a great job.
"But if you look at the overall mix, if he runs the point, his offense suffers, though it’s nice he runs the point once in a while, because he gives us an additional threat.”
Air21’s huge win over Talk ‘N Text revived the team’s playoff chances after improving to 3-9 with two games left on its schedule - against the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers on Saturday and Rain or Shine next week.